Friday, August 27, 2004

The buzz, the buzz . . . Poker #4—the takeaway poem, for me, is the Du Plessis. Nice stride, tonal shifts like walking affected by thinking by walking etc. I expected (read: wanted) more by her and kept reading onto the next page as a poem titled “Cedar Sigo” maybe four nights running before (last night) I realized why it so confusedly didn’t have the presence of “Dialogue of Self and Soul.” I mean no slight of Cedar Sigo with my preference for her (immediate) predecessor.

The New Yorker has, reasonably enough, four Czeslaw Milosz poems. The New York Times has a great piece in yesterday’s op-ed section by Robert Pinsky on the man as well (note: I think the link is only free for a week following publication). You can’t walk twenty feet, actually, without finding something somewhere. Mine:

I heard him read once, at Amherst College. He was a presence larger than the (relatively) small space he read in. But his poems in translation were not, were kind of flat. He read them in Polish first (that is, Polish, trans., Polish, trans., etc), though, and they were electric, though I knew not one word of Polish. True words have a power which precedes meaning.

Sort of contra this, a momentary fancy: It’s funny to me to imagine Milosz in exile in Berkeley writing in Polish with an immediate ear for how he and Robert Hass will translate it—kind of a Borgesian or maybe Nabakovian image (not Calvino or Barth, though, in the tenor of my mind)—the translation there almost before the Polish, him writing the English, manipulating its possibilities, with the long tongs and careful pokers of the Polish. This feels fitting to me for Milosz, maybe, because his poetry can be so concerned with the nature of what precedes, of immediacy/originality of self and composition.

The poems? Go read. Dreams, angels, sex, youth, and life, life, life. Mynheer Peeperkorn with a genius for not just people, but himself. I like the first and the third (“Guardian Angel” and “Merchants,” especially “Merchants,” nice and complex in its simplicity) better than the second and fourth (“Classmate” and “If There Is No God”), which were kind of one-trick ponies.

And you?

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